Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX: Concerning the Aims of War - Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty
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CHAPTER IX: Concerning the Aims of War - Hugo Grotius, Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty 
Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty, ed. and with an Introduction by Martine Julia van Ittersum (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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Concerning the Aims of War
Article I.What constitutes a just purpose in war, for voluntary agents?
Article II. What constitutes a just purpose in war, for subjects?
War is waged by the virtuous in order that justice may be enjoyed; and justice, as Polus Lucanusa so admirably explains, is the very same quality that is called “peace” with reference to the community, whereas with reference to subjects in their relation to rulers it is called “ready obedience.”
Let us deal first with Article I of this question, which pertains to voluntary agents.
Peace, then, is the fruit of justice. Platob expresses the same idea when he says that laws were established for the sake of true justice, and therefore for the sake of peace. Ciceroc maintains that war ought to be undertaken in such a way “as to make it evident that peace is the only end sought.” In another work,d moreover, he points out that the term “peace” should be applied, not to “a pact of slavery” but to a state of tranquil freedom. Yet again, hee unites the two concepts in the following statement: “Wars should be undertaken for this purpose, that we may live in peace and free from injury.” According to Crispus,a wise men “wage war for the sake of peace, and endure toil in the hope of leisure,” an observation interpreted by Crispus himself in another work,b where he asserts that, “Our forebears, the most scrupulous of mortals, snatched away nothing from the conquered save the latter’s licence to inflict injury.” Among the theologians, we may cite Augustine,c who says: “Peace is not sought in order that warfare may be practised; on the contrary, war is waged in order that peace may be attained”; and the same authord defines peace as “a well-ordered concord.” The ancient theologians,e too, explain in connexion with the story of Melchisedec that peace and justice differ not in fact but merely in name.
Accordingly, the peace set up as an objective for belligerents is not any kind of peace whatsoever, but solely and exclusively the kind that is just and honourable. For otherwise, those wars would be vainly undertaken which we are almost compelled to wage as a matter of necessity, at times when (to borrow the phrase of Florus)f laws more savage than arms are imposed. Thus Cicerog warns us to beware of the peace wherein snares are concealed. Again, according to the admonitions of Tacitus,h war itself is less perilous than a peace that is either vile or entangled with suspicion.1 Yet again, it was Demosthenesi who formulated that excellent maxim, πόλεμος ἔνδοξος εἰρήνης αἰσχρα̑ς αἱρετώτερος; “a glorious war should be preferred to an inglorious peace.” Thucydidesa likewise observes: “Peace is strengthened by war; moreover, he who shuns war because he loves peace will not thereby place himself beyond the reach of danger.” This thought is clarified by Thucydides himself in the following words: “To be sure, it is characteristic of men of moderation to remain at peace when they have not been provoked by injury; but it is also characteristic of the brave to exchange peace for war if injury is[54′] done them and then to resume friendly relations, laying aside their arms, when the opportunity presents itself and the affair has been carried to a successful conclusion.” To this he adds: “It is not fitting that any man should be extolled because of success in war; but neither is it fitting that any man should endure contumely while wallowing in peaceful ease. For he who shrinks from war for the sake of the pleasures of peace will (if he remains idle) right speedily be despoiled of that delightful tranquillity which so captivated him that he was too slothful to take up arms.” These are the beliefs expressed by Thucydides. Similarly, Thomas Aquinasb says: “Assuredly, war is waged for the sake of peace, but for the sake of a good peace, not for one that is evil. For there is also a kind of peace which Christ declares that He came not to send upon earth.” Apart from Saint Thomas, there are other theologiansc who hold that the purpose of war is the removal of those things which are a menace to peace; and, according to these same theologians, peace is menaced when any one is unjustly attacked or deprived of his property or subjected to injury, while justice, or righteous punishment, is nevertheless withheld. Certainly each of these points is in exact conformity with the statements already made by usd regarding the causes that give rise to war.
New explanationThus the kind of peace suggested as the proper aim of belligerents is nothing more nor less than the repulsion of injury, or (and this, in the end, amounts to the same thing) the attainment of rights, not only one’s own, but also, at times, the rights of others.a
This last objective clearly exists in the case of allies; and for that matter, it can equally well be the objective sought by the very instigators of a war, as may occur, for example, when the injured parties have been so thoroughly crushed that they themselves lack the power to offer resistance. So it was that Abraham undertook to wage war in behalf of Lot and the citizens of Sodom. Constantius did likewise in behalf of the Romans against Maxentius, as did Theodosius for the cause of the Christians against Chosroes the Persian. “The courage which [. . .] defends the weak” is called “justice,” by Ambrose.b According to Seneca,c “He who does not attack my country but nevertheless oppresses his own, harassing his people though he keeps aloof from mine, has destroyed by the depravity of his spirit that fellowship based upon human rights which he shared with me, so that my duty to the whole of mankind is a consideration more fundamental and more powerful than my duty to that one man.” Cicerod asks: “Who that does nothing save for his own sake, is a good man?” To be sure, in striving thus for the good of others, we strive for our own good, also. For it is important to the security of all that injuries [to any person] shall be warded off, lest the perpetrators of the injurious acts, rendered more powerful thereby, should at some future time rise up against us, too, and also in order that others may not be encouraged to wrongdoing by a multitude of instances in which injurious conduct has gone unpunished. Furthermore, it is a fact worth noting that, just as a state often undertakes a public war for the personal benefit of citizens (a point already mentioned by use ), so also citizens take up arms privately for the benefit of the state. This sometimes happens when the state has been crushed and is unable to act as a whole in its own defence. [Scipio] Nasica [Serapio] adopted this course of action against [Tiberius] Gracchus, and certainly his deed is praised by all good men. Octavian did likewise against Antony. The same may be said of all tyrannicides. Yet it is obvious that these persons acted partly in their own interest; for, just as it is to the advantage of the state that its citizens should be safe and prosperous in their private lives, even so, and in a far greater measure, it is to the advantage of the citizens that the state should be preserved.
Furthermore, whosoever engages in war in behalf of another’s right, necessarily regards his own right as bound up therewith in the collection of damages and costs.a Accordingly, we find all those persons blame-worthy who wage wars, even with just cause, if they do so ἐκ πλεονεξίας [out of greed] and in a spirit of injustice. Therefore, let the state, magistrate, or private citizen who undertakes a war, and the ally of any such belligerent as well, remain wholly free from “deep-seated lust for empire and riches,”b and from the sentiments described by Senecac in the following lines:
These are the very sentiments to which Augustined refers in the passage already quotede from that author: “The greedy urge to inflict harm, cruel vengefulness,” and so on. For, as this same Father of the Churchf declares, “Among the true worshippers of God, even wars themselves have a pacific character, being waged not because of cupidity or cruelty, but because of an earnest desire for peace, with the purpose of restraining the wicked and giving support to the virtuous.”
Conclusion VIII, Article IIn short, Voluntary agents wage with a just purpose whatever war they wage in order to attain a right.
Now, in the case of subjects (as we indicated at the outset of this chapter),a the factor of obedience is stressed, a point brought out in pontifical law by the words of Pope Gregory:b “Among other good and meritorious attributes of military service, the most praiseworthy is this: obedience to the needs of the state.” Wherefore subjects, too, must necessarily be free from those failings which we forbade in the case of voluntary agents.
Mercenaries, however, are for the most part apt to display such failings, as Platoc shows by quoting Tyrtaeus to that effect; for it is evident that mercenaries defy danger solely in the hope of gain.d [55′] Antiphanese gives us a rather neat phrase describing the soldier who,
Paulf bears witness to the fact that soldiers are not forbidden to accept payment; and under the head of such payment (as we have noted before and shall note againg ) spoils are included, when they are bestowed by a state or magistrate. On the other hand, it is a vicious practice to aim at gain through spoils as one’s principal goal. To take an analogous case, we know that it is right for persons in public office to accept fees, including upon occasion the fines paid by citizens, since it would be unjust if the common interest were served at the expense of one individual; but the magistrate should nevertheless have in view a different objective, to wit, the public weal. Augustineh sought to make this very point when he said: “It is not a crime to serve as a soldier, but it is a sin to do so for the sake of spoils; neither is it a blameworthy act to rule a state, but to rule it for the purpose of augmenting one’s wealth, is an act that clearly calls for condemnation.” Those individuals, however, who have themselves suffered loss, quite properly fight even for the sake of spoils—in other words, for the attainment of their rights, a process bound up with the process of despoliation—until they have obtained reparation for that loss.
Now, what we have said regarding the rectitude of one’s purpose falls exclusively into the realm where one’s innermost thoughts are examined,a that is to say, the realm wherein God passes judgement on a man or the latter passes judgement on himself. Yet whenever a matter of this kind is brought before a court—for example, when some judge, in peaceful surroundings, passes upon a question relative to spoils of war—all points not susceptible of proof must be disregarded. Furthermore, even in the court of conscience, he who wages war for an unjust purpose is indeed convicted of sin, but he rightfully retains the spoils. Thus the Scholasticsb wisely maintain that, “Righteous intent is not a prerequisite for the licit retention of those things which have fallen to one’s lot in war, any more than the process of execution resulting from the order of a judge is to be evaluated on the basis of the executing agent’s intent.” For wrongful intent on the part of the person who seizes something, never of itself creates an obligation to make restitution.c
From the standpoint of those tribunals established outside the realm of one’s own conscience, the same principle holds true with respect to the good faith, or belief in the justice of one’s cause, which we require of subjects [in the waging of wars]: that is to say, this factor is not even taken into account, unless perchance the injustice of the cause is entirely obvious. Hence it follows that only those matters susceptible of certain proof are submitted to the judgement of the said tribunals: for example, such matters as the authority of a superior. This is the doctrine laid down by all the jurists.a
Conclusion VIII, Article IIIf, on the other hand, we do wish to take into account the criterion of conscience, we may say that, Subjects wage with a just purpose whatever war they wage in order to render obedience to a superior.
[a. ]In Stobaeus [Florilegium, IX. 54].
[b. ]Laws, I [p. 628 c]; add Arist., Politics, VII. xv [VII. xiii. 15].
[c. ]On Duties, I [xxiii, 80].
[d. ]Philippics, XII [vi. 14].
[e. ]On Duties, I [xi. 35].
[a. ][Pseudo-Sallust] Speech to Caesar [vi. 2].
[b. ]In Jugurtha [Sallust, The War with Catiline, xii. 3–5].
[c. ]Letters, i [clxxxix. 6], To Boniface, cited in Decretum, II. xxiii. 1. 3.
[d. ]On the City of God, XV [v].
[e. ]Hebrews, vii. 2; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, IV [p. 231].
[f. ][Epitome, II. xxx. 32.]
[g. ][On Duties, I. xi. 35.]
[h. ]Annals, III [xliv] and Histories, IV [xlix].
[1. ]The phrase employed by Grotius, pace . . . suspecta, might be translated more faithfully as “open to suspicion”; but the passage cited from Tacitus as pertinent to this point refers not to a peace that invites suspicion, but to a person who is suspected in time of peace and who therefore finds that war is the safer course. Here, as in many other cases throughout the Commentary, words presented by Grotius in the form of a quotation (i.e., words underscored in the MS.) represent in reality a paraphrase.
[i. ]Demosthenes [De Corona, 201].
[a. ]I [xxxvi].
[b. ]II.–II, qu. 40, art. 1, ad 3.
[c. ]Matthaei, in Req. 2, p. 7.
[d. ]Concl. VI, Art. I, supra, p. 107.
[a. ]See Chap. vi, supra, pp. 92 f.
[b. ]See at end of Chap. iii, supra, p. 67 [and Ambrose, On Duties I. xxvii. 129].
[c. ]On Benefits, VII. xix.
[d. ]Letters to his Friends, VII. xii.
[e. ]In Chap. vi, supra, pp. 93 f.
[a. ]In Chap. iv, supra, pp. 75 f.
[b. ]Sallust, Frag. [Letter of Mithridates, 5].
[c. ]Hippolytus [540–1].
[d. ][Against Faustus, XXII. lxxiv] cited in Decretum, II. xxiii. 1. 4.
[e. ]At end of Chap. iii, supra, p. 66.
[f. ]De Diversis Ecclesiae Observationibus cited in Decretum, II. xxiii. 1. 6.
[a. ]Beg. of chap.
[b. ][Letters, XII. xxiv, cited in] Decretum, II. xxiii. 1. 7.
[c. ]Laws, I [p. 630 b].
[d. ]Sylvester, on word bellum [Pt. I] x. 4; Cajetan, Summula Peccatorum, words: bellum dubium.
[e. ][In Stobaeus, Florilegium, LIII. 9.]
[f. ]1 Corinthians, ix. 7.
[g. ]Chap. iv, supra, pp. 83–84, and Chap. x, infra, pp. 217 ff.
[h. ]De Verbis Domini cited in Decretum, II. xxiii. 1. 5.
[a. ]Scotus, 15, dist. 41, qu. 4 [in Reportata Parisiensia, II, dist. 39, qu. 2, n. 6].
[b. ]Cajetan, On II.–II, qu. 40, art. 1, ad 2; and in same art.; Arias, De Bello, n. 58; Covarr., On Sext, rule peccatum, § 9, n. 2; Angelus, Summa, n. 5; [Trovamala] Summa Rosella [word bellum], nn. 3 and 8; Sylvester, n. 2: tertium [on word bellum, Pt. I. ii, Sed istud tertium].
[c. ]Th. Aq. II.–II, qu. 66, art. 8; Cajetan, Summula Peccatorum, words: bellum iniustum.
[a. ]Adrian [Quaestiones Quodlibeticae], in c. aggredior; Cajetan, On II.–II, qu. 40, art. 1, at end; Covarr., On Sext, rule peccatum, Pt. II, §§ 10, 11.